Sports Briefs Feb. 3, 2010

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Major shake-up in Toronto

Tired of seeing his team mired in the basement of the Eastern Conference, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke made two huge deals this past weekend, acquiring a big name defenseman and a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner in the process. After the dust settled, Burke had shipped six players out of Toronto and received two in return. The first, and arguably the biggest, move saw Burke send Ian White, Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers to the Calgary Flames in exchange for blueliner Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf, an offensive-minded defenseman who is known for his crushing bodychecks that occasionally push the boundaries of legality, projects to be a top-two defenseman for the Leafs. Burke’s second move sent goalie Vesa Toskala and forward Jason Blake to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Burke knows Giguere from his time as general manager of the Ducks. The goalie, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2003, recently found himself stuck as the back-up to Jonas Hiller, a role he made it clear he had little interest in playing. TSN.ca reported on Monday that Toronto coach Ron Wilson will start Giguere for the majority of the Leafs’ games down the stretch

Report: Moss played hurt

After a season in which he was repeatedly criticized for not giving the team his all every week, a new report indicates that Patriots’ wide receiver Randy Moss may have had a pretty good reason. According to a report on ESPNBoston.com by Mike Reiss, Moss was diagnosed with a separated shoulder shortly after the Patriots’ season came to an end. Moss apparently first injured the shoulder on Oct. 11 against the Broncos, but played in all 16 of the team’s regular season games as well as their playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The report has come to light due to the fact that Moss was elected to play in last Sunday’s Pro Bowl, but, like teammate Tom Brady, declined to participate. The wideout had 13 touchdown catches this season.

NCAA tournament to expand?

Apparently hoping that the old saying “there can’t be too much of a good thing” is true, it appears that the NCAA is considering expanding its March tournament field to 96 teams. The website Sports by Brooks reported earlier this week that a source indicated that the expansion was a done-deal, but FoxSports.com reported that a deal hadn’t yet been finalized. FoxSports lists a number of reasons why the timing is right for expansion, including an opt-out clause in the NCAA’s television contract with CBS and the ending of a 32-team contract with the National Invitational Tournament, traditionally a tournament for the teams that don’t quite make it into the NCAA Tournament. The tournament field is currently limited to 65 Division I teams, but the NCAA has made it clear in the past that expansion was an option they were considering, especially given the economic boon the tournament has become for both the schools involved and the NCAA as a whole.

Former champs to fight in April

While all reports seem to indicate that the rumored mega-fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather appears to be off, boxing fans will be able to circle a date on the calendar this year for  a big-time bout featuring big-name brawlers after all. According to ESPN.com, longtime rivals Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins will fight on Apr. 3 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The two former light heavyweight champions last fought each other back in 1993, a fight that Jones Jr. won by unanimous decision. Jones Jr. has a career record of 54-6 with 40 knockouts, but lost his most recent match when he was knocked out by Danny Green on Dec. 2. Hopkins, who sports a 50-5-1 career record with 32 knockouts, defeated Enrique Ornelas in his last fight, also on Dec. 2.

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